Wednesday, June 23, 2010


One year ago today, I was... in bed asleep, actually. But it's after midnight, so it's technically Alec's birthday. I would wake up in six hours, drive blearily to the hospital, get undressed and sit through an unnecessary EKG (I had had one the day before in my intake appointment, and it would take me three weeks to get all of the residual glue from the sensors off), and then proceeded to surgery to have a baby. And it turned out to be quite a high quality baby indeed. I attribute it to superior genetic material.

It's hard to describe how much I've enjoyed the past year. He is such a joy. And I can't believe how fast he's grown over the past year:

Sitter1Two fisted eater

Happy birthday, Alec. I can't wait to see what the next year brings.

Monday, June 21, 2010


So yesterday we had a birthday party, with cake and princess decorations and lots of splashing in the wading pool. It was a great success all around.

And then today, we woke up with a five-year-old. I can't believe how tall she is, and how much she's grown up over the past year. I know that the infrequency of my posting over the past year means that I'm most likely to post about her when she's driving me crazy, which could give the casual reader the impression that I don't like my older child much. But really, she's quite a delightful little girl.

She's enthusiastic. Everything she likes is her favorite. She loves just about anything you give her.

She's creative. She'll make clever lego creations or creations from paper and tape or cloth that actually resemble what they're supposed to be.

She's imaginative. I love listening to the running dialogues she gives pretty much any inanimate object she plays with. She rides her imaginary horse through the parking lot and then hitches it to the front of the car so it can pull her carriage. She spends about half of her life as a puppy and brings me items to throw so she can play fetch.

She's an excellent big sister. I won't say there aren't times that she doesn't want her brother touching her stuff, and she's not always gentle about pushing him away. She also takes rampant advantage of his good nature by snatching away things he's playing with, knowing that he probably won't fight. But most of the time, she's very generous with her toys, and very gentle with him. She's the best of all of us at getting him to laugh and is so good about playing with him. She loves her brother so much, she's campaigning for another baby.

She's such a kid. Her body has gotten so long, and her face has lost all of its baby roundness. Tantrums are being replaced with shrewd bargaining.

Happy birthday Katherine. I can't believe you're such a big girl already.


Saturday, June 19, 2010

Water baby

We went to what was theoretically SCA archery practice on Sunday, but in reality was a bunch of people hanging out while the kids frolicked in the wading pool and under the sprinkler.

All of the kids had fun, but oh my, Alec is apparently part selkie. He splashed in the pool, he splashed in the water table. He climbed in and out of the pool through sheer force of will. Finally, he crawled over and just sat under the sprinkler, occasionally waving his arms in joy, too exhausted to play any more but utterly unwilling to leave all of the wonderful water.

Incidentally, I have to say that I'm very impressed with the waterproofness of Bumgenius pocket diapers. I had put one on him without any absorbent material as a swim diaper, and it would take on water when it gapped, but then wouldn't let it drain, so he routinely had a cup of water hanging off of his crotch. As I said, impressive water retention abilities there. I finally just took the diaper off and let him frolic naked. I figured everyone there knew what baby boys look like under their diapers and there's really such a short in your life that you're allowed to have no modesty at all.


It was K's last day of school today. They had a short ceremony to celebrate moving up to kindergarten with the parents looking on proudly (and brilliant people that we are, we remembered the camera but forgot that the battery was still in the charger). It was particularly nice that the teacher they had the longest this year came back to be part of the ceremony and say good bye to the kids. Her class had four teachers this year. The regular teacher had to take a leave of absence for health reasons, so they got a long-term sub who was a retired fifth grade teacher. He was pretty good, especially considering he wasn't used to being surrounded by four year olds every day. His training wasn't in preschool, but he tried hard. But then the school district informed him that if he taught past a certain point, he would start losing retirement benefits, so he had to leave six weeks before the end of the year. Then they got the sub who seemed entirely unprepared to deal with small children. My opinion of her was cemented the day she informed me that K had had a tantrum over something and I was supposed to talk to her to keep it from happening again. I... see. One, what on Earth are you doing teaching preschool if you can't handle a tantrum, and two, if only I had realized the way to put an end to tantrums was to talk to her. And here I had been sending her memos, which didn't seem to work at all! Yeesh. But she left after a couple weeks, and they got the final teacher who thankfully seemed to actually know about preschool.

And now I need to figure out what to do with us for the next three months. We can't afford any sort of day camp (do they have camps based on the theme "Get this kid out of my hair for a few hours"?), but I'm thinking I need to figure out at least child care for Fridays. B and I had been switching off working Fridays and Saturdays, which was tiring but at least we got one day a week off together the weeks I didn't work Sundays. But since the branch libraries have stopped Saturday hours for the summer, I'm only going to be able to work Saturdays and Sundays. And since he also managed to get a bunch of Sunday hours at the Central Library downtown, there's going to be something like a seven week period this summer that I will have to work every Saturday and we will switch off who works on Sunday. Meaning that we won't have a day off for nearly two months if I can't get some child care and work some Fridays. Yikes.

As for what to do with the other four days of the week, I foresee taking heavy advantage of museum memberships and trying to schedule a lot of playdates. I really want to get her in some swimming lessons, but that may have to wait depending on what our finances look like.

First, though, we have the kids' birthdays to get through next week and then a pilgrimage Midwestward. I'm looking forward to going home for a while.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Alec at eleven months

My goodness, eleven month olds are exhausting. It's not even so much the chasing Alec around as the sheer physical effort of preventing nearly thirty pounds of determined baby straining towards the object of his desire from actually getting it, or trying to continue holding him up when he's decided he wants to be on the ground and either stops holding on with his legs at all, or attempts to pivot in my arms until he's nearly head-down.

He has gotten very, very fast at crawling and is ready to take advantage of this at the first opening, whether it's finding the gate downstairs open so he can go play in the cat food or his bedroom door unwisely left open during a diaper change, so he can flip over mid-change and crawl hellbent for freedom, naked poopy butt waving jauntily in the air (why am I changing him on the floor instead of the changing table? Because at least when he pulls those maneuvers on the floor, he can't fall off anything. He's perfectly happy to roll over and try to start crawling or scale the wall while on the changing table without regard for trifles like gravity. Babies are kind of dumb like that). I don't think he's made much real progress on the gross motor front beyond getting faster and more confident at crawling and cruising. The closest he comes to standing independently can best be describe as "briefly balancing before toppling in the other direction" or "falling a bit more slowly than normal." He shows no interest in trying to take steps behind a wheeled toy or while we hold his hands. So I would be shocked if he were walking by his birthday. By the same token, I would be surprised if he waited until 16 months like K. 13-14 months maybe? Honestly, I'm not in a hurry for him to have that much more scope for destruction. Imagine what he'll be able to do to a room once he has his hands free.

Despite making him sound like a whirling dervish, Alec is actually remarkably good at quietly entertaining himself for long periods of time, methodically working his way through a room, examining everything he finds with scientific intensity and subjecting them to stress tests. He's gotten much more interested in books as well, and happily pages through them or listens to us read to him.

One thing I like about this age is that he's starting to find ways to communicate with more than just crying. There are the obvious things, like bringing over a book and hitting us with it, and more subtle, like the time he let me know he was thirsty by sticking my finger in his mouth, sucking it for a moment and then giving me a meaningful look.

He's still a little charmer and a flirt. He knows just how to act to get people swooning over him in public. I mean, most babies get attention in public, but he's a master of the coy smile moving into wide grin that really gets people. I'm not sure how the product of my genes could be such a people person. He periodically comes up to me for a cuddle break in the middle of his busy play schedule. He also periodically comes by and bites my toes, or bites my shoulder when I pick him up. He's such a cute little piranha.


Sunday, June 6, 2010

Baker's quarter dozen

* Alec still drinks several bottles a day, but we're starting to make the transition to straw cups with water or whole milk during meals and when we go out. I hadn't thought before about the fact that I have very little experience with the way milk behaves in a straw cup; K was allergic to milk until she was two, so hers was always rice milk, and we tend to bring water for her these days. So I hadn't realized quite how... chunky milk gets in such a short time. Yeeurgh.

*Speaking of milk, it's been about three weeks since the last time I pumped. I had wanted to make it the entire year, but my supply drops pretty quickly if I reduce my schedule even slightly, and it just felt so good when I reduced my schedule down to three times a day that I couldn't make myself go back even when it was clear my supply was drying up. And once I was producing less than 10 ounces a day, it wasn't worth it any more to try to limp across the finish line. Alec is a gigantic, robustly healthy baby who is doing just fine drinking formula for a month. I figured out recently that I produced a quart a day for five months, and 25 ounces a day for at least three more months. It's a rough calculation, but I pumped 62 gallons of milk in the past year. Moo. But a rather accomplished moo.

* We finally enrolled K in kindergarten a couple weeks ago. We finally landed on public school because the one she's currently going to is one of the best in the city and she would already know some kids in her class. It has some green space and a playground next to it, and it's two minutes away from B's library. We still have reservations about Philadelphia schools, but it seemed like a good situation for early elementary school.

So you can imagine our reaction when we discovered that that's not the school K will be attending. Her preschool program isn't available in every school, so we were assigned to the nearest one with a Bright Futures class, but we don't actually live in that school's area. Our actual school is surrounded by asphalt and doesn't have a playground. And its test scores are a great deal worse. Now I certainly don't think that test scores are any sort of measure of how good a school actually is. But in the era of No Child Left Unscathed, my worry is that a school with poor scores will have to spend a great deal more time prepping for the tests than a school with good scores. And a kid like K, if she takes after her father and me at all, will be shunted aside on the assumption that she'll provide a good score and doesn't need any attention.

So I'm not sure what we're going to do. In the positive column for the new school, when we went to our current school, the office staff was unspeakably rude to us, whereas the reaction of the office staff at the new school was a cheerful "Welcome!" That was enough not to make me immediately run to request a voluntary transfer and at least wait and see to find out what it will be like in September. We're hoping to move when our current lease is up in December, so the simplest solution would be to find a place in the area of the school we like. Failing that, a transfer is a possibility. Or we'll start looking at public school alternatives again.

Or maybe we'll actually like this school. But I feel badly for K, who has spent the past year making friends including a couple best friends, and now she's going to be in a completely different school from them.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Happy-making things:

- We got a donation of some Bobbsey Twins books at work today, the really classic original ones from 1904. I read them as some of my first chapter books when I was seven or so, but haven't read any in about 25 years. I was paging through the first book and while I had remembered a lot, I had completely forgotten the bit where Nan's foolhardy friends tried to jump rope 100 times in a row and collapsed in a dead faint from the strain. This didn't come as a surprise to Mr. Bobbsey, who had known of multiple little girls who had DIED from jumping too much. I hadn't realized jump rope had such a high fatality rate.

I think I need to read some more of these, because they're entertaining on the same level that a Victorian novel I once read was (or I should say, helped read aloud to friends while we howled with laughter), where a man from a village populated with a freakish number of redheads kills his wife and then develops guilt-induced meningitis. Even as a child, I recognized that things like the book that takes place in Holland, Michigan where they discover everyone there lives in the traditional Dutch fashion (they don't) and prominently featured an abandoned windmill as a plot point (there's one windmill in Holland, and it's a major tourist attraction) was pretty ridiculous, but clearly there's a lot more absurdity to be found by reading these as an adult.

- A new Thai restaurant opened up around the corner from us. One of the more disappointing aspects of where we live in the city is that while there are plenty of takeout and delivery places for food, you have a varied menu available of Italian, Italian, Chinese and Italian. We were excited when the first delivery menu arrived after we moved here, and then the next twelve thousand ninety-six arrived and we discovered that they all had exactly the same menu. We love and really miss Thai food, so it was an exciting day when we spotted the new restaurant to provide something a little different in the sea of cheese steaks that makes up the local restaurant scene. We were both braindead by Friday evening, so we ordered it and it was lovely. They had all of my favorite dishes, with just exactly the right amount of spice. I can handle a lot of spice, but I've actually found with some foods that I prefer it not be too spicy because there are other flavors I like that you can't taste if your tongue is being reduced to a carbon cinder. But my Drunken Noodles were just about perfect. And they even offer some Chinese food, so we were able to order an egg roll for K to make sure she would have something we knew she would eat (sometimes she is quite adventurous with how she eats. And other times, she decides to be four instead).

- I love three day weekends. Of course, in our case that means we only had today off together. But it was still a day off together when normally we would have had to wait until next weekend for that to happen. And since it was today instead of a Sunday when we have to get up for church, I got to sleep in. Bliss. And my mother arrived today for a visit. She was in Oberlin this past weekend for her college reunion, and decided that since she was already halfway here, she might as well come all the way. We're actually planning to be in Michigan at the end of June, but Mom being here now means we can spend less time with her then and take the extra time to go up to B's parents instead. It's a longer trip to them and they're able to travel to us more easily than my mother, so we don't get there nearly as often as we visit my mother. I think it's been three years since I was at their house, so I'm really looking forward to it. Hopefully we can get some good beach time in.

- I hesitate to even say this, but right now, we have two children sleeping in their own beds in their own rooms. FOR THE FIRST TIME SINCE ALEC WAS BORN! We had decided to co-sleep with Alec when he was born, with the assumption that like K, he would let us know when it was time for him to sleep on his own. For K, she was always very sensitive to outside stimulus and it was a gradual process of her sleeping less and less if she was in the same room with us, until it became clear that co-sleeping was impossible. Alec, on the other hand, has been our little cuddlebug from the beginning, and for a long, long time wouldn't sleep unless he was in contact with another body. But over time, we've been able to put him down more often, until recently we realized we could put him in the pack and play next to us for naps and in the evening and he was sleeping a nice chunk of time. Long enough that I began to wonder how long he might sleep if there wasn't anything interesting around when he woke up to keep him from getting himself back to sleep. Or if he might be able to get through the night without a bottle if there weren't parents conveniently right there to provide a little snack when he woke up. And sure enough, so far tonight we've heard a few whimpers over the monitor but nothing that required any intervention. I'm really curious how long he's going to go.

We managed to get K back in her room a few weeks ago, after months of her in our bed. It was actually largely my fault, because we usually cuddle her for a while as she's going to sleep, and when I was eight months pregnant it was too difficult to get in her bed. So I would put her in my bed, which somehow turned into her in our bed every night. And once the baby came, we didn't have to energy to try and change it. But like Alec, she started to show signs that she would probably be willing to go back to her bed if we pushed, so we did. And bribed a bit. But it worked, so I'm not arguing.